- Post is under moderationWELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD #BMW-335i-E90
With WTCC-inspired styling and 530whp, this #E90 #BMW-335i is a force to be reckoned with. Justin Gomba’s E90 pays homage to the bullish aggression of the #WTCC series, then cranks the horsepower up to 11. And it’s all fully road-legal… Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Watson Lu.
Touring Cars rock, there’s no two ways about it. Pick any era from Touring Car history and you’ll find charismatic drivers doing impressive things in cars that look like stickered-up versions of your neighbourhood’s daily drivers, probably while amusingly clattering into everybody in the vicinity in a bloodthirsty rush for the apex. Look at the inaugural #1958 season of the British Touring Car Championship, in which Jack Sears and Tommy Sopwith ended the year on equal points, so the winner was decided by a head-to-head sprint around Brands Hatch in a pair of Riley One-Point-Fives. Or last year, when Rob Austin threw his Audi up the strip at Santa Pod against a 500hp VW splittie, just for a laugh. Or the 1992 season finale, when Cleland, Hoy, Harvey and Soper all got very physical indeed, ending in acres of crumpled steel and all manner of bruised egos…
The Supertouring era of the 1990s has a certain relevance here, in fact. The 2.0-litre displacement cap meant that teams weren’t campaigning M3s like they were in the #E30 days; no, an #E36 BTCC racer would be a 318is or, later, a #320i – and not always in twodoor guise. Non-M3 more-doors gained inexorable race car kudos from this, and that ethos carries over to the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) series too. The formula is simple: take a commuter-spec car, pour a staggering amount of R&D into making it a formidable circuit racer, then shift a load of road cars off the back of it. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday, an idea as old as motor racing itself. How this manifests itself in the WTCC is cars that look from afar like the ones you’d see pootling along in the middle lane of the motorway, but up close turn out to be fearsomely wide, aggressively low, and shouty.
You can understand why a person might wish to transmute this race car chic into a daily-driven road car, can’t you? And that’s just what Justin Gomba was thinking when the green shoots of inspiration planted themselves in his brain, before ultimately sprouting, growing, and developing into the mile-wide knee-trembler you see before you. “I wanted something different, something nobody else would have,” he explains, and that’s a sentiment we hear time and time again. There’s a lot of sense in that.
Now, this may not be an M3, but the #E90 - #335i is certainly no slouch in stock form. That twin-turbo #N54 will happily kick out the thick end of 306hp all day long, which is more than enough to keep the average commuter or travelling salesman entertained. Hell, that’s as much as a #Ferrari-348 , which is a good fact to have in your arsenal for ‘mine’s-bigger-than-yours’ pub debates. But Justin had bolder aspirations, as you may well have spotted from the underbonnet shots. This is no stock #N54 . Indeed, the depth of the rabbit hole is measured by those angry hybrid snails from RB Turbo, which work in conjunction with an LTMW front-mount intercooler, Injen cold air feed, bespoke GIAC management, and a custom big-bore exhaust setup to unleash a frankly disturbing 530hp at the wheels. The stock automatic transmission is beefy enough to cope, although a fairly industrial Quaife LSD has been drafted in simply to keep the Tarmac from imploding in reverence at the sheer awesomeness of the thing.
You’ll no doubt have noticed reference to LTMW there. To regular readers, the name LT Motorwerks will be more than familiar; the El Monte, California-based outfit is well established in the game of taking hot BMWs (and other brands now) and making them hotter. What Long Tran and his team don’t know about fusing cutting-edge technology with up-to-the-minute styling trends could be Sharpied on to the back of a postage stamp. The company’s very genesis is grounded in Long’s #2006 #E90 – it’s the car that inspired him to start the business, and he’s a long-standing source of knowledge on E90post. com – so there are few places more appropriate for Justin to haul his 335i to.
In line with Justin’s aspiration to have ‘something nobody else would have’, his investigations led him to Vollkommen Design – a company which, rather helpfully, can be found in the same part of El Monte as LTMW – and the range of fibre-reinforced plastic body addenda that it has developed. Specifically, its World Touring Car Championship-style E90 kit, comprising hugely broadened bumpers, racy skirts and, most impressively, steroidally expanded wings all round. Just take a moment to appreciate the sheer girth of the thing, it really is quite incredible; sure, we’re somewhat spoiled in today’s tuner scene by the likes of Liberty Walk, Rocket Bunny and all those advocates of horizon-broadening bodystyling (both literally and cerebrally), but harnessing the functional width of a race car is an entirely separate approach. It feeds into the same fashionable arena, but its roots are planted in something that has existed in motorsport from time immemorial, stretching the body around the grippier footprint.
Oh, and since we’re talking footprint, let’s take a peek under those super-wide arches, shall we? Justin’s riding the old-skool train here with a set of timeless BBS LMs, artfully crafted by Floss Design, which neatly dovetail with the racer aesthetic. In this instance, we’re looking at 10x18s at the front, and a whopping 13” width apiece at the back axle, which is more than enough to ensure that the swollen power figures translate into effective ground-covering. But it can’t hurt to take a belt-and-braces approach, so he’s chosen to wrap a set of Toyo R888s around them – a tyre so sticky that it pretty much melts just from the force of you looking at the sparse tread pattern.
Again, it’s all about the race car vibe. And the rims look ace bursting forth from those muscular curves, don’t they? “It only took LTMW about a week to fit the whole lot,” Justin reveals, which is testament to how proficient it is at churning out kickass motors conveyer-belt-like from its Californian theatre of dreams. But it also speaks volumes for the quality of the kit. “The front fenders are one-piece, bolt-on parts that attach to the stock #BMW mountings,” he explains, “and the bumpers and skirts use the factory locations too.” Where Long’s team had their skills truly tested was in getting the rear wings right, as their fitment involves cutting back the stock wings, then attaching the Vollkommen units over the top. The finish is flawless, though, and thanks to a set of KW Clubsport coilovers (helpfully aided by Phantom air cups – a bagless air-ride system – to help get over speedhumps and suchlike), the stance is bang-on as well. Not just show low, but motorsport low.
Nothing exceeds like excess, as the old saying goes, and simply overhauling the silhouette would never be enough for a man with Justin’s magpie eye, so he’s paid a lot of attention to the details too. Both ends of the E90 have come in for a refresh; the nose wears a set of LCI headlights that have been resculpted by OSS Designs to resemble the lights found on #M4-DTM racers (arguably the most brutal and certainly the most costly Touring Car series), while the tail enjoys a CSL-alike ducktail bootlid from Duke Dynamics, flanked by more LCI jewels. Form and function meet in the interior too, as he’s sourced a set of pukka #BMW-M-Performance seats to keep his kidneys tightly hugged through the twisties, with the rear seats trimmed to match. Yes, the car still has rear seats; while it was undoubtedly tempting to junk the interior entirely and stuff it with FIA-approved monkey bars, Justin’s opted to continue the practical ethos of having four doors by ensuring that he can offer passengers a comfortable place to sit before he scares the hell out of them. And you can’t accuse him of not taking the thing to its ultimate evolution. “I have to admit I never intended to take it this far,” he says, a look of starry-eyed whimsy on his face. It’s so often the case, isn’t it? The act of modifying a BMW seldom results in half-measures or compromise. This 335i is the best that it can be. Those StopTech brakes and M3 chassis gizmos make sure of that, optimising the otherworldly power from the RB-boosted motor, and yet there’s still room for the weekly shop – what more could you want?
Arguably the coolest thing about this project is that it fulfils that little dream that always pops into your head when you’re at a race track: ‘I wonder what would happen if I peeled the stickers off that and used it on the road?’ The answer is the searing red streak that you see here, prowling menacingly through SoCal, a pit-straight refugee with a bad temper and a stableful of horses. The fact that it’s significantly more powerful than a WTCC racer is merely the cherry on a very naughty cake; couple that with the luxurious finish that LTMW have painted in broad strokes across the whole canvas, and Justin’s dream of having ‘something different’ comes alive with unrivalled flair and panache. A grand tourer and a Touring Car in one.
DATA FILE #BMW-E90 335i
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six #N54B30 , #RB hybrid turbos, #LTMW intercooler, Injen cold air intake, TiAL dump valve, GIAC management, AR Design custom downpipes and 3.5” VR Speed Factory exhaust, six-speed automatic transmission, Quaife LSD.
CHASSIS: 10x18” (front) and 13x18” (rear) BBS LM wheels with brushed bronze centres with 295/30 (front) and 335/30 (rear) Toyo R888 tyres, StopTech Trophy BBK with six-pot calipers with 355mm discs (front) and four-pot calipers with 335mm discs (rear), KW Clubsport coilover kit, Phantom rear air cups, M3 lower control arms, anti-roll bars and camber adjustment arms.
EXTERIOR: Vollkommen Design WTCC wide-body bumpers, wings, skirts and rear door extensions, CSLstyle Duke Dynamics bootlid, gloss black roof, LCI tail-lights, LCI headlights modified by OSS Designs, M3 mirrors.
INTERIOR: BMW M Performance seats, gear knob and steering wheel with LED display, Alcantara gaiters, rear seats trimmed to match.
THANKS: Long and crew at LT Motorwerks, George at KW Suspension, Darren at Vollkommen Design, James at Floss Design, Luis at OSS Designs, StopTech, Kennedy at Platinum VIP, Tiago at VRSF, #RB-turbo , Bernardo Pena, Jasper Li, James Lam, Felix and Watson Lu, and my beautiful wife Erica.
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- Post is under moderationLight the Blue Touch Paper.
We experience the UK’s first tuned #M4 both on the road and on the track. Litchfield #BMW F82 M4 Blue touch paper… and stand well back. Litchfield Motor’s fully tuned #F82 #M4 Coupé might look like a standard example but it packs plenty of fireworks. Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Chris Wallbank.
I’m not 100 per cent certain which gear we’re in but it’s safe to say that the M4 is flat out down the International straight at Silverstone as we flash by the new Wing complex. I can feel the rear tyres are really struggling for grip as they manfully attempt to remain in contact with the streaming wet surface while also trying to transmit 500 plus horsepower. As we head into the right-left that makes up Abbey and Farm corners I’m expecting a serious dose of understeer at these sort of speeds but my driver expertly dabs the brakes, settles the M4, and charges for the new Arena complex as if there was world championship at stake.
That’s hardly surprising as my pilot today is none other than Rob Huff, #2012 World Touring Car Champion (WTCC) for Chevrolet and currently leading the Lada Sport Team’s charge in the championship, recording the company’s first-ever win in the WTCC in China as well as winning the prestigious seasoncloser in Macau. Safe to say he can drive a bit. As you’d expect he can hit apices with precision time after time but as we barrel into the Arena complex it becomes clear that he’s not adverse to having a little fun either as he settles the M4 into a glorious beautifully controlled drift as we turn hard right before he deftly sets the M4 swinging the other way as we travel round the long sweeping left hander on the lock stops with the rear tyres gently kissing the red and white kerbs. All is calm behind the wheel with Huff hardly having to correct the steering at all, just a gentle throttle modulation keeping the car on its balletic path around the corner. I’m laughing out loud and Huff has a large grin plastered across his face.
Over the years the M3 has been the darling of the BMW tuners with every generation of the breed seemingly coming in for a serious dose of development ranging from 2.5-litre engine conversions for the original E30 M3 to a raft of superchargers for the E9x generation. That the new M3 (and M4) will come in for the same sort of treatment is a given but what is perhaps most surprising is that the first fully tuned machine that is up and running and ready for us to test has been completed by a UK company, Litchfield Motors, and while it looks refreshingly standard there have been plenty of changes under the skin.
But why is Rob Huff, #WTCC superstar, at a rainsoaked Silverstone giving me the passenger ride of my life? Before we can answer that question we first have to take a look at Litchfield Motors as it may well be a name that those of us immersed in BMW circles haven’t heard of before. Iain Litchfield set up his company 15 years ago and has become a very big player in the Japanese tuning market with its #Nissan #GTR conversions becoming almost legendary. And this is what first brought Rob Huff to Litchfield’s door, as he wanted a little extra from his GTR. Over the years Iain and Rob have become friends, both sharing a passion for driving and modifying their cars.
It was a natural extension of this relationship that Rob would become involved with assisting Litchfield to fine-tune its conversions and he’s now a hands-on member of Litchfield’s technical team and is able to provide vital driver feedback to Litchfield’s engineers as they hone the latest upgrade packages. Explaining Rob’s role, Iain commented: “Rob has a unique insight that only a versatile World Champion can bring… We know many fast drivers, but Rob brings something different; he understands the importance of a driver’s involvement with their car much more than any racer we’ve ever worked with. When we test, Rob’s not so much about chasing tenths in each lap, but rather how he can improve the sensation between car and driver, and most importantly of all, how he can make the car easier to drive and more predictable on the limit, and ultimately, just more fun to drive.” Rob’s input will also help Litchfield to speed up the R&D process without compromising quality.
His race setup experience means it can arrive at a desired setup so much quicker than it otherwise would, particularly when developing chassis enhancements. Iain continues: “He has a sixth-sense behind the wheel that he is able to quickly translate to our engineers with incredible clarity. This should take significant time out of our test schedule, whilst simultaneously giving us a better overall result.”
Thus Rob’s actually at Silverstone today to further hone the setup of this M4 which has already undergone some pretty serious revisions. Obviously the weather’s not ideal but he’s still able to discern the changes that have been wrought on the car. Perhaps we’d better look at what’s been changed first and then get on to the reasons why. First up is an Akrapovic full Evolution Exhaust system with carbon rear tail trims, which was the very first system fitted to a car in this country. As an Akrapovic dealer Litchfield was very keen to get the exhaust on the car early as in its experience it knows what wonderful pieces of kit they are. It had a system on its #E92 #M3 and the decent weight-saving plus dyno confirmed power gains makes fitting an #Akrapovic system a no-brainer, especially if you’re chasing more power.
Once the system was installed Litchfield saw power rise to 477hp and not only did it produce more oomph from the M4, it gave the sort of look and sound that Litchfield was looking for too. Even standing still it looks the part with its carbon-clad quad exhaust tips while Litchfield’s demo also has an optional carbon diffuser, too. Once the exhaust was on Litchfield set about adding a remap to the car and after it had been breathed on it had a dyno figure of 525hp and after having done a few more cars it’s regularly seeing 530-535hp from the new turbocharged M3 and M4 with a torque figure of 485lb ft to go with it.
While more power is obviously a good thing what Litchfield really wanted to concentrate on was its suspension upgrade and that’s what Rob Huff has been particularly adept at assisting with. Iain Litchfield takes up the story again: “We found that the standard car works well up to a point. Shortly after purchase we took the M4 to the Nürburgring and it had decent ride quality in Comfort mode and on the first few laps of getting used to the circuit the car performed very well. However, once I was confident I found the suspension struggled over 8/10ths commitment as it would lose composure.
“Back on UK roads it was similar but it felt more unpredictable, so it takes away some of the confidence to push on. At Silverstone the first time Rob and I drove the car this same inconsistency was more apparent. Here it was highlighted by how critical the tyre pressures were to get the balance right. It was decided that the dampers lacked control and in particular rebound damping control wasn’t good enough when pushed. This was compounded by the M4’s rear e-differential that is very quick to react and can unsettle the suspension which doesn’t react quickly enough which can make the car feel nervous and take away driver confidence.
“We worked with our suspension specialist to produce an active kit that would work with BMW’s suspension control systems. This system significantly improves the damper quality in all modes but our custom springs also ensure much better body control at speed. There is a bigger variant between the suspension modes now with Comfort mode offering an improved ride while Sport and Sport+ have much better control over body roll and pitch.
“During the course of the development and using the advanced data logging we also discovered that the internal valves in the standard suspension could not react quickly enough to the commands being given by BMW’s dynamic suspension ECU. These valves have a reaction time of 30 milliseconds and like most OEM systems, require the change to take place when the damper is momentarily static at the end of its travel whereas our new valve reacts in just 6 milliseconds and can change at any time during a bump or rebound stroke. This slow response was no doubt adding to the unpredictable nature of the chassis when it is worked hard on the road and track.” So, a hugely comprehensive reworking of the suspension has taken place, but the cleverest part is that Litchfield’s new hardware actually works with the BMW system so is seamlessly integrated with the car.
Rob pronounced himself pretty happy with the changes when he was testing at Silverstone with just one further small change required to the rear dampers to eradicate a slightly unsettled feeling from the rear end as you come back on the power when exiting a corner. To be honest I doubt I could have detected it, but Rob’s able to demonstrate what he means when we’re out on circuit. We must have completed around ten laps and while some of these were of the showboating perfect drift type, Rob demonstrated why he’ll be such an asset to Litchfield when he puts together a series of laps that were the fastest possible in the conditions.
The racing line at Silverstone gets very slippery when wet so Rob tiptoes the M4 around the track utilising some unusual lines but executing that delicate balance between slip and grip and by heck it’s fast and well-balanced. There’s some pretty tasty machinery out there but we seem to reel them all in in the space of a few laps. Rob’s pace and skill behind the wheel is on another level but even from the passenger seat it’s possible to see how well balanced and controllable the car is – a far cry from the less-than-perfect composure on the limit that Iain described earlier. Litchfield’s machine is running the optional carbon ceramic brakes, too and they’re sensational on track with no sign if fade, washing off speed with your body pressed firmly against the seatbelt. Rob reckons they’re the best road car ceramics he’s sampled on track which is high praise from someone with so much Porsche experience.
While the car’s performance on track is impressive, how it performs on the road is equally, if not more, important. With the circuit lunch break underway I head off into the wilds of Northamptonshire to see how it fares. Firing the M4 up in the pit garages demonstrates how good it sounds with the Akrapovic exhaust which had been muffled when on track due to wearing a crash helmet. It takes a few minutes to become familiarised with the M4 as we trundle away from the circuit but soon enough I come across the winding and undulating roads I’ve sampled in the past and it’s time to ramp up the pace.
The wet roads aren’t ideal and it soon becomes clear that using all of the car’s new-found 525hp is going to be tricky as with the traction control switched on it’s constantly intervening and with it switched off I’m getting too much wheel spin. The halfway mode seems to work quite well though and the Pilot Super Sports that Huff has already tried to destroy make a pretty decent fist of transferring the power to the road. Quite how much faster it would be than the standard machine is hard to say, but we’d like to try both back-to-back on some dry roads to find out. By the seat-of-the-pants it does feel like it pulls harder than the standard car and possibly has better throttle response, but with the tuneful Akrapovic exhaust ringing in your ears it’s not hard to feel like this car is very, very rapid indeed.
Litchfield’s suspension work does seem to have done the trick, too, as despite the pace and greasy conditions the car doesn’t become wayward. I’m quite happy to admit that I’m nowhere near Huff’s level of skill but let’s face it, how many of us are? And isn’t it more important that the car can still be driven rapidly and confidently by someone of average ability? Turn-in seems to be excellent and the M4 resists understeer even in these conditions and its mid-corner transition from pointy and grippy front end to a degree of slip from the rear wheels as you reapply the power is well-controlled and progressive. As a back road blaster the Litchfield M4 can’t have many peers at this sort of price point.
Conscious of the time and the fact that Rob and Iain are keen to get back out on to what is hopefully a drying circuit I retrace my steps with a broad grin on my face before giving the M4 a quick squirt up the A34 dual carriageway. I’m not attempting a land speed record here – it’s more about refinement and ride quality – as there’s no point in taking a great allrounder and then sharpening its responses for the track only to discover that it’s lost its cruising abilities. I shouldn’t have worried though as the ride is as comfortable as you’d experience in the standard car and the exhaust that’s strident when you’re on a charge is nicely muted when on a constant throttle cruise. Add a dose of throttle and it does get louder, but it’s in no way intrusive or in any way boomy.
I must admit that as I return to the circuit and reflect on what Litchfield has managed to achieve with its #2015 M4 I’m mightily impressed. Obviously the Akrapovic isn’t its work but it does go part of the way in releasing additional power that’s then improved upon by Litchfield’s map. There’s no doubt the suspension work is very clever, too, honing the chassis still further and removing the car’s on-limit lack of composure that now seems to be coming out now that several road testers have spent longer with the car. In a nutshell it’s a great effort from Litchfield and I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more about the company’s BMW conversions in the months and years to come.
2015 #Litchfield #BMW F82 M4
ENGINE: S55 straight-six, twin-turbo
MAX POWER: 525hp
MAX TORQUE: 485lb ft
LOWERING KIT: £462
AKRAPOVIC FULL EVOLUTION
EXHAUST SYSTEM WITH CARBON
REAR TAIL TRIMS: £4335.60
CARBON REAR DIFFUSER: £747.60
LITCHFIELD ACTIVE SUSPENSION KIT: £4098 (TBC) * All prices include parts, labour and VAT
As a back road blaster, the Litchfield M4 can’t have many peers at this sort of price point.
Even from the passenger seat it’s possible to see how well-balanced and controllable the car is.
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